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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Bill & Houston's (Chocolate, Cinnamon, Coconut) Banana Bread

Gigi, a friend in Oz, was asking about banana bread recipes, over on Facebook.

It's the end of winter in Oz, and it's the end of summer, here in the UK. So, it may be a perfect time for Gigi to make one last winter warmer, it's definitely a perfect time for me to dust off my comfort-food recipes.

This recipe is originally from one of Bill Granger's books. (I think it's this one.) As good as Bill's banana bread was, though, I though it was missing a little oomph. So, I played around with a few warm flavours, modified it significantly, and this bread is now one of my favourite winter recipes.

It is *not* low-cal, and it is not for those who are banana purists.

And for those of you who need clear delineation between what can be called breakfast and what can be called dessert, this bread is *not* for you.

Bill & Houston’s Chocolate Banana Bread
Original by Bill Granger, modified by Houston Spencer

  • 275 g (roughly 2 ¼ cups) plain, all-purpose flour. (For a full-on flavour explosion, I substitute about one third of the flour with dried, grated coconut.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125 g (4 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 250 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 250 g (1 ½ cups) good-quality dark or milk chocolate chips. (...but, go on, use the dark!)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F / Gas 4).

Mix the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Mix the butter, sugar, banana, eggs, vanilla extract and chocolate chips in a separate bowl.

Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Do not over mix. A looser mixture is best.

Pour the batter into a non-stick, or lightly greased and floured, 19 x 11 cm
(71/2 x 41/2 inch) loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the bread is cooked when tested with a skewer.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve in thick slices.

Makes 8 to 10 slices.

Baking times for this bread vary a lot for different ovens.

Also, as with many breads like this, the relative moistness is a matter of personal taste. More flour can create a firmer, slightly drier bread with shorter cooking times.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

An unexpectedly poignant tribute to John Hughes

Flame-Haired Angel and I reckon The Breakfast Club was the most broadly embraced statement of our teen generation. For good or ill.

It's creator, John Hughes -- once a name associated with a whole genre of film -- died last week.

On a random web walk, this morning, I came across this tribute written by a woman who, as a teenager, had an extended pen-pal relationship with Hughes.

It's humbly extraordinary.

Sincerely, John Hughes

Beginning to get Brigitte Bardot

All my adult life, I've seen photos of Brigitte Bardot. Beyond being another vintage (to me) beauty, I never really got the mystique. Apart from Marilyn, perhaps no other pinup of her generation had the same lasting impact on the pop culture zeitgeist.

But out of so many beautiful idealised women of the 50s and 60s, why did a generation fixate on Bardot?

My own reaction to Bardot was mostly "meh".

Then I saw this photo.

And I think I begin, just a little, to get it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One of the very best things I've ever seen.

Bar none. It just gets better and better. Be sure to stay through all the way to the end.

Thanks to Jon Taplin for pointing it out.